Monday, July 20, 2015

Brian Landrus Explores the Depths of Music on "The Deep Below"

Brian L:andrus "The Deep Below

Multireedist Brian Landrus is making a name for himself utilizing a creative approach to exploring the depths and textures of the lower register sounds that can be produced on his array of bottom instruments. People are apparently catching on as he has been named rising star on the Baritone Saxophone in this year’s Downbeat Critics poll. On The Deep Below, his latest effort, he probes into the lush and evocative sounds of the lower register, utilizing his signature baritone saxophone, the bass clarinet, the bass saxophone and the bass flute to make his point. Low can be intoxicatingly sexy and poignantly moving when played with thought, precision and passion. Mr. Landrus has no shortage of any of these qualities in his playing and his writing. On this album Landrus is joined by the consummate bassist Lonnie Plaxico and the veteran trap master Billy Hart. Together they make beautiful music of a kind and quality that is not often enough heard today.

Of the ten songs on this album all but three are Landrus compositions.  The three standards are Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” I suspect this is a tip of the hat to baritone master Harry Carney. This is a marvelous tribute to Carney's contribution to the canon, as well as a masterfully played rendition of an all time classic. Landrus’ sensuous tone melts into Plaxico’s plucky bass lines in a symbiotic way-this one’s magic. Coltrane’s “Giant Steps “is a solo performance of melting crescendos of sound that are as fluid as you’ll find on baritone.  “I’m a Fool to Want You,” the last standard on the cd, opens with a bellowing bass introduction by the plucky Plaxico. Landrus’ baritone lingers on every note, taking this one at a pace so slow as to almost be somnambulant, but somehow they make it work to their advantage. The song’s anguish is dripping in the painfully plaintive cry of Landrus’ horn. Hart’s brushes are barely perceptible except at precise accents and the song is hauntingly moving.

Landrus’s compositions are their own reward, from the playfully loping feel of “Fly” to bellowing bottom sounds of Landrus on the bass saxophone on “The Beginning” where you feel like you have entered another dimension somewhere dark and foreboding. Landrus utilizes the woody sound of the bass clarinet on the darkly rich “Fields of Zava,” and the shuffling “Orebro Treaty.” His bass clarinet is unaccompanied on both the mystical “Just a Fading Memory” and the peaceful “Open Water.”Playing  a beautifully evocative bass flute on “Will She Ever Know” and “Ancient,”, Mr. Landrus  shows that he has no limit within the confines of these lower register instruments, making beautiful and expressive music.

The album ends with Landrus returning to baritone on “The Age,” where the group’s has a chance to open up and the interplay is buoyant and playful. Plaxico’s bass anchors the theme and Hart is a master of understated precision. “Once Again” ends the cd on a somber note with Plaxico bowing deep into the lowest notes on his bass and Landrus' fluttering woody tones on the Bass Clarinet. The piece has a chamber music quality to it.

Brian Landrus has created homage to the bottom register with The Deep Below, a proclamation that lingering in the lower depths of the musical scale can yield surprisingly beautiful results.